Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Is the glass half empty...or half full?

"There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so." – William Shakespeare

Is the glass half full or half empty? Is the responsibility a privilege or a duty? Is the help we've been asked to give an opportunity or an obligation? Do we "get" to do it or do we "have" to do it?

Attitude is everything. And luckily for us, our attitudes are a matter of choice. We can pick the attitudes we want much as we pick our clothes or hairstyles. Nothing or no one in the past or present can dictate our attitudes. No one else deserves credit or blame for how we choose to process reality. For better or worse, our attitudes are ours alone.

We all have the same world to respond to. What we practice, we become. If we practice looking at each day as a new adventure, so it will be.

I will develop an attitude of gratitude each day, giving thanks for my many blessings."

- From "Days of Healing, Days of Joy: Daily Meditations for Adult Children" By Earnie Larsen & Carol Larsen Hegarty

Monday, April 27, 2009

Slow and steady

Slow and steady wins the race - the ultimate mantra for time management!Sometimes I wonder where the years have gone - other times I'm in a hurry to get there (although I'm not quite sure just where "where" is...) then there are the days that just seem to whiz by me and I wake up - OMG! Its Friday already and I haven't even left the gate!

When we lose track of time and focus on the past - or future - we can lose minutes, days, weeks, months or even years. I have to remember to think about what I want my tomorrow's to look like and then to stay present in today so that I am working toward my goals instead of wallowing in my head the jumble of thoughts - words, memories...feelings that I 'm trying to avoid - these are the things that can prevent me from joining the race and actually getting round the next bend in the road....

So - today as I remind myself that my current job it to practice living in my now and doing my now work I remind myself that if I just keep putting one foot in front of the other that my tomorrow's will all line up just fine.

So while slow and steady wins the race - we have to remember to wake up and step up to the starting line every day.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Just breathe

Living in the moment sounds like such a blase expression sometimes I think; envisioning that in order to achieve some state of higher consciousness that I must sit cross legged on some bamboo type floor covering dressed in white flowy type clothes and do the mantra "hmmmming"....but in reality the practice I have found is truly very simple....

Below is an excerpt from an article I found on experiencing the art of living in a state of mindfulness....

A friend was walking in the desert when he found the telephone to God. The setting was Burning Man, an electronic arts and music festival for which 50,000 people descend on Black Rock City, Nevada, for eight days of "radical self-expression"—dancing, socializing, meditating, and debauchery.

A phone booth in the middle of the desert with a sign that said "Talk to God" was a surreal sight even at Burning Man. The idea was that you picked up the phone, and God—or someone claiming to be God—would be at the other end to ease your pain.

So when God came on the line asking how he could help, my friend was ready. "How can I live more in the moment?" he asked. Too often, he felt, the beautiful moments of his life were drowned out by a cacophony of self-consciousness and anxiety. What could he do to hush the buzzing of his mind?

"Breathe," replied a soothing male voice.

My friend flinched at the tired new-age mantra, then reminded himself to keep an open mind. When God talks, you listen.

"Whenever you feel anxious about your future or your past, just breathe," continued God. "Try it with me a few times right now. Breathe in... breathe out." And despite himself, my friend began to relax....

While it takes practice to be able to live in a state of mindful awareness and experience the "now" moment, this is the best way that I have found to move out of the shadow of the past and allow the future to be just that - the future - instead of allowing it to consume my life, my moments, my now.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Sweet dreams?

Sleep is one of those things that can affect our ability to live our lives to the fullest. Sometimes stress can get in the way of getting a good nights sleep, but - it is possible to learn the skills to calm our minds and slip into that quiet place where we are able to rejuvenate and heal our bodies and minds so that we are prepared and equipped to feel refreshed and rested the next day. This article does a terrific job of explaining how sleep is truly a necessity v. a luxery when it comes to our daily performance...

Sometimes the lack of sleep can affect us in ways we might not always be aware of. For example, not getting enough sleep can aggaravate the daily stress we experience, leave us feeling heavy and tired, make us prone to weight gain among other things.

For those of us who have suffered from insomnia resulting from that "busy brain" that just wont cooperate and calm down, read on - there are some terrific tips on dealing with stress and anxiety!

If your dragging during the week and using the weekends to "make up for lost sleep" this article poses some very helpful tips and talks about taking "power naps" to rejuvenate during the day.... 20 things everyone needs to know from a London source, The Independent I found a brief writing by James B Maas about sleeping that I wanted to share.



Treating sleep as a necessity rather than a luxury is the secret to being a peak performer. When you don't get proper sleep, you experience increased stress, feelings of lethargy, weight gain, reduced immunity and lowered productivity and memory. How do you know if you are getting proper sleep? Answer the following questions:

* Do I need an alarm clock to wake up at the right time?

* Do I often fall asleep in meetings, after heavy meals or when watching TV?

* Do I often sleep extra hours on weekend mornings?

* Do I feel tired during the day? If you answered yes to any of these questions, it's likely you need more sleep.


1. Get proper sleep

Identify the amount of sleep you need to be fully alert all day and get that amount every night. For most adults, it's eight hours. For teenagers, it's nine.

2. Establish a regular sleep schedule

Go to bed at the same time every night, and wake up at the same time every morning - including weekends.

3. Get continuous sleep

For sleep to be rejuvenating, you should get your required amount of sleep in one continuous block. Any nicotine or caffeine after 2pm or alcohol within three hours of bedtime will disrupt your sleep.

4. Make up for lost sleep

For every two hours awake, you add one hour of debt to your sleep debt account. It takes eight hours of sleep to restore 16 hours of waking activity. You cannot make up for large sleep losses during the week by sleeping in at the weekend. Try taking a 20-minute power nap at midday.


1. Keep your bedroom quiet, dark and cool

Sleep on a mattress with individual pocketed coils that reduce motion transfer, or a foam mattress designed to support your back properly.

2. Reduce stress

Even if you are sleep-deprived, anxiety can delay sleep onset. Try relaxation exercises. Write down your concerns before you go to bed - your worries then won't interfere with your sleep. Don't watch TV within two hours of bedtime. Take a warm bath before bed. Reading for pleasure before turning off the lights will ease you into sleep.

James B Maas, PhD, is a Stephen H Weiss Presidential Fellow, Professor and past Chairman of Psychology at Cornell University. He is the recipient of the American Psychological Association's Outstanding Educator Award and the author of Power Sleep.

What are some things that you have done to make sure you are able to get that good nights sleep?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

She dreamed a dream - Susan Boyle

On Britain's "You've got Talent" Susan Boyle knocked 'em dead! Watch the video on youtube.

Here is a knock down example of living in the moment for sure!

Susan Boyle boldly stood up to Simon and said "I want to be a professional singer". The audience laughed...then listened.

Susan Boyle has led a quiet, sheltered life in a small village in Britain. She has not dated, never been kissed and spent the last several years caring for her elderly mother who recently passed away. She reported on this mornings cbs news that she is accustomed to be ridiculed and teased even now as an adult and that folks are "nice to her" now. Her appearance is unkempt, her hair wiry and unruly. Susan is 48 years old and when asked how she managed to do this and sing the (difficult) song she chose she said " I thought about the song".

Under circumstances that would have left me shaking in my boots and wishing there was a bathroom nearby, Susan Boyle chose to focus on the song rather than focus on the pain of losing her mother, the voices of the naysayers who criticized her, or the fears of her future. Susan Doyle magnificently knew that to experience this very moment at hand that she needed to place her attention on her present moment.

Go to to watch the interview from this morning.

I'm a tweet!

LOL! I finally took the time to figure out how to do the twitter dance!

The economics of "now"

How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. Annie Dillard

This quote is a wonderful expression of the idea of living in the moment! It causes me to stop and think about how I am spending my life. As in the study of economics, each of us has the limited resource of TIME and the unlimited choices of how we SPEND our resource of time...

Banking my moments...:-)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Practice Practice!

In my journeys around the world of blogging I recently stopped by to visit Anja Merret's post on Missing this very moment - here is the comment I left behind:

"Anja; what a terrific question! It took me a good bit of effort to find the awareness that you speak of - seeing that this moment is a good place and being able to discern the past and future from it. I have found that it takes practice to make that decision to stay in the moment...our thoughts come and go at the speed of lightening but I believe it is possible to learn to be aware that I am following the past or running into the future and stay right where I want to be - in this present moment...."

The question has come up on just how do we begin to "live in the moment"...and while I am not a Buddest monk that has studied for decades the massive subject of enlightenment nor am I a Rhodes scholar with a doctorate in anything other than life.

What I am though is someone who has "been there and done that" in searching for my own answers to my own life dilemma's, including getting over the bump in the road when it comes to worrying about the mysteries the future holds or ruminating over the mistakes I made in the past - whether it was half an hour ago or a decade left in the dust.

And here's the secret: it takes awareness.

Like Anja shares in her post - awareness that my thoughts are again out of control and running to the past or the future at the speed of light - hither and yon at the speed of sound, spinning my brain like a strawberry milkshake in the blender if I'm not careful :-)

And it takes (here's the hard part - no easy answers, sorry guys) - it takes practice.

Practicing being aware of my thoughts and knowing that I am in the norm of the population whose thoughts wonder from Nova Scotcia to England and back again and then a short jaunt to Austrailia before I land back at the ball game where my physical body happens to be planted on the sidelines and - OOPS! How did that guy get on 2nd base already? (see how that works?) *grin* GOTCHA! It takes practice to catch our minds wondering and then reining them back into the moment :-0

So - these are the grand words that I have to share today on the subject of living in the moment and the path I have taken to conquer living in the land of oz where I was present in body...but not "present".....

So heres the deal: girls do it. boys do it. We all let our minds wonder from here to there and back again - the key is to be aware that we are doing it and then choosing to grab the bull by the horns (so to speak) and recognize when we are off lost in the memories of past failures (or success') or floundering in the fears of the future. With a little practice and being mindfully aware of our thoughts that may be wondering about... we can rein ourselves in and seize today!

I live now and only now, and I will do what I want to do this moment and not what I decided was best for me yesterday. - Hugh Prather

Monday, April 13, 2009

In this moment...

Living in the!

Ok. How did I learn to live in the moment was the question posed by a friend recently.

There are tons of things I have learned in this journey of moving from a life of black and white thinking to accepting all the color and experiences that life has to offer...but for this particular subject - (drum roll please!) - the answer begins with awareness.
In my journey I have found that many of the symptoms of PTSD have to do with avoidance. I would attempt to block out any type of stimulation that might trigger the intrusive memories and flashbacks of the life events that were too overwhelming for my mind to cope with.

I developed ways to avoid facing the feelings that went along with the memories. Drugs, alcohol, gambling, work....addiction and obsession in general, irritability, cutting, promiscuity and yes - dissociation. PTSD and C-PTSD survivors labeled as "disordered" and their trauma issues unaddressed may develop a variety of coping mechanisms to avoid dealing with the intrusive memories and nightmares.

In order for me to begin to heal, to live in the moment - I had to be willing to start to let go of my avoidance behaviors and learn to recognize when I was USING avoidence.

This is where things get tricky because once I opened this door - in order to stop avoiding and become aware of this moment, my LIFE - I had to acknowledge the feelings and learn to face what I was trying to avoid.

(Note: this did not mean that I had to repeatedly relive the trauma - but to face the feelings I was avoiding today that ultimately were connected to the trauma's I'd experienced)

Over the years, I had become a pro at my avoidence behaviors to the point that I was losing time, I had difficulty recalling memories and I lived a life of isolation where I could control my environment so therefore I could control what might trigger the flashbacks and nightmares.

Dissociation - was my friend who had saved my psyche from experiencing firsthand the trauma and related feelings that were overwhelming me - had now become maladaptive as it interfered with my ability to distinquish that I was no longer in danger but not ready to deal with the emotion, not ready to face the past. explains the healing process very well I think:

So - in order to begin to "live in the moment", I had to be willing to become aware of the thoughts, behaviors, feelings…that I had been avoiding. This in turn allowed me to develop emotional resilience, courage and strength as I took the baby steps necessary to grow myself up - emotionally.

This is how I "went through" the tough stuff to find my freedom from the pain of the past and learn to live today as the "creator" of my "best life".

Giving up is not an option, there is ALWAYS a solution

What I had learned in that one moment of sudden awareness when I was reading Echkart Tolles book was this: as long as I was focused on and living in the pain of the past in my mind - I was forfeiting my present moment, I was sacrificing all that life held as I suffered internally in the painful memories of the past trauma and the avoidance behavior associated with PTSD.

I resisted experiencing life and shut myself away in a prison of my own making as I avoided more and more of life in an effort to stifle any memory that could trigger those intense emotions of loss, anger and grief at the hand that life had dealt me. Life - the world and the people in it - was to me, completely black and white, good or bad.

This was a big deal for me. After years of therapy I had not gained an understanding that I had the power to change my life. I was convinced that I was defective and broken and there was no cure, no ending to my misery. I had no understanding that my obsessing over the past and my efforts to avoid any triggers that might open the vaults of my memories and stir the pot of misery that I held in my mind was in fact stealing my life, or that there was anything I could do to change this.

The journey and included work has not been easy by any means. In making this decision to learn to live in the present moment, I had to reconcile that I would be opening myself to feeling again. But once I understood this idea - that I had a choice in what I thought about and that these intrusive symptoms could be overcome - I made the decision that I would find my way out of this living hell and take control of my mind and therefore my life.

There is no way for me to communicate this process in a simple outline of steps - there are many overlapping things - ideas, tools, skills - that I have learned and each one builds on the next to provide me with the skills and tools to change my life from one of isolation, avoidance and misery to being open, willing - and in great anticipation - looking forward to experiencing the full range of color that life holds.

So today let me just say this one thing that kept me going all these years: I knew that as long as I kept searching that I would find my answers. I determined that I would find a way out. Giving up - suicide, self harm, addiction, dissociation, depression - was no longer an option as the solutions for the intrusive thoughts and feelings of PTSD. There is always a solution.

If you or someone you know is experiencing troublesome or intrusive thoughts of harm to yourself or someone else please contact your local emergency 911 number or go to your local emergency room and ask for help.

Friday, April 10, 2009

In this moment...

In the blog Parasites of the mind Michele Rosenthal discusses the idea that we can begin to tap our own inner resources and find our own inner hero as we heal from PTSD. For me finding the inner strength to finally say "enough" to living in the past came in a moment of clarity while reading a book by Eckhart Tolle...

In his book A New Earth; Awakening to your lifes purpose Echkart Tolle discusses how this moment is your life. For some reason I found that to be the most amazing idea. All this time I was wanting to find a cure, a fix, that would allow me to move on and "get a life". Yet in one moment of awareness, I understood that I had everything I needed to "fix" myself within myself.

My life had been consumed with trying to avoid the intrusive thoughts and anything that might trigger them. I was mesmerized by the racing thoughts in my head and an internal sense of victimization to such a degree that I had lost sight of the moment...the moments that I had lost because I was "stuck" in time as I relived the trauma situations of my life, thinking about what had happened, imagining things I could have done or said differently to have prevented the situation, the mistakes I had made that had perhaps compounded the situation and left me feeling guilty or responsible for the situation or how others had been affected.

These racing thoughts consumed my attention during the day and intruded into my dreams at night. This state of mind kept me in a constant state of hyper vigilance - just waiting for something to happen, ready to move into the adrenalin rush of the "fight or flight" response of my body and mind.

But in the midst of all that, after years of therapy, medications and self destructive behaviors I had that moment of clarity - that I could change my life simply by changing my mind.

That meant that I had to be willing to learn how to not avoid the memories, but to embrace them, feel the feelings, grieve the loss, acknowledge the anger - I had to realize that I was now in a safe place and in total control of my mind, body and soul. Like Michele says in her blog about constructing a post trauma identity I had to recreate myself; I had the opportunity to choose what kind of person I wanted to be today, what life I wanted to live in this moment.

As a result, I have been able to gradually, in my own time and my own way, move from the black and white thinking of a victim to being able to allow the idea that maybe life is not "all good" or "all bad"...and let some color in. Eventually I was finally able to see that life was full of color like that found in a swatch of colorful plaid fabric.

I hope you are able to find the path that will allow you to live life in full color too.

Seize the moment!

Monday, April 6, 2009

"Take 10!"

Life happens...every day and in many different ways! Sometimes this brings with it a certain level of stress that we expect. For those who have survived a traumatic event and perhaps live with the resulting PTSD symptoms or suffer from anxiety or depression of some sort, relaxation is not something that comes easily...but it can become something we can learn to practice as a part of our recovery and reclaiming our lives.

Living in a constant state of stress can take a toll on your body and mind; take a few minutes to enjoy the following relaxation video and practice visualizing yourself sitting by this stream listening to the sounds of nature surrounding you...and know you can return here at any time...

What a wonderful world...

Sometimes when we live with something from our past that can haunt us, we can get lost in the struggle of trying to live in the moment. Here is a song that I thought is a soft, gentle reminder that the world really is a wonderful place...a new take on the old favorite by Louis Armstrong...we really do live in a wonderful world...